Aboru villagers face separatist stigma

Aboru villagers face separatist stigma ---------
Saturday, July 21, 2007 -----------
M. Azis Tunny, The Jakarta Post, Ambon ----------
Aboru village in Maluku has a reputation as a center for separatist leanings in the province. -----------
The 3,000 or so residents of Aboru, located in the south of Haruku Island, in Central Maluku regency, have often found themselves isolated as a result of this reputation. -----------
The residents of Aboru generally have little social interaction with residents of the nine other villages on the island, which measures about 150 square kilometers. ------------
Aboru village itself comprises seven hamlets, stretching along a bay that protects the village from the high waves of the Banda Sea. --------------
No roads connect it to the other nine villages on the island, or to the district capital Pelauw. ------------
If they want to travel to Pelauw, Aboru residents must go by sea, paying up to Rp 70,000 for a single trip, which is a large amount for the villagers. --------------
Aboru has recently received a lot more attention than it is used to after a group of its young people, disguised as Cakalele dancers, crashed a National Family Day event in Ambon being attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and tried to unfurl a separatist South Maluku Republic (RMS) flag. ---------------
But this was not the first time Aboru has been in the spotlight. On April 25, 2002, some 220 RMS flags were raised in the village. The next year, 63 residents were named as suspects over the incident. -------------
Following this latest incident, 150 police officers were sent to Aboru on July 8 to arrest 30 suspected RMS members. Police took along five RMS convicts to point out the houses of the 30 RMS suspects. ----------------
"All this time the police have not been able to do much due to the Aboru villagers' strong resistance (to the police)," a Maluku Police officer told The Jakarta Post. ---------------
A journalist recalled that during a 2003 trip to Aboru with top military and police officers, and guarded by several members of the Army's Special Forces, or Kopassus, they ended up walking around the village for two hours looking for the home of the village chief, because no one would tell them where the house was. ---------------
"Everyone we always gave us an unfriendly look and said they didn't know," said Ambon Ekspress reporter Yani Kubangun. ----------------
Director of the Maluku Inter-Faith Institute, Rev. Jacky Manuputty, said the people of Aboru had gained a reputation, unfairly or not, as inhospitable and rebellious. ----------------
"This stigma can have two impacts. First, they become isolated or, in the opposite direction, they become very reactive, aggressive and dare to do anything. ----------------
"They are also jealous of development project conducted by the government in neighboring villages on Haruku Island. The key is to take a personal approach to the people there through development and job opportunities. The most important thing is to get rid of the negative stigma," he said. ----------------
A member of the Maluku Regional Representatives Council, Philip Latumerissa, who recently visited Aboru, said residents were distrustful of outsiders because of past experiences. ---------------------
He said the people of Aboru used the RMS as a means to express their disappointment over perceived inequities in development and job opportunities. --------------------
"They find it hard to become civil servants or join the police or military because of the RMS stigma that has been attached to the people of Aboru," Philip said. ------------------
He said this stigma is something the government can help remove by improving people's welfare and opening up job opportunities. ------------------
"The main problem there is lack of development, not some ideology," Philip said.